Friday, November 30, 2007

Two dogs, a horse and...

a snowy egret.

Meet Beluga. a baby snowy egret who came to stay with us last week. He's been walking around the garden, eating bugs and millipedes. We're not sure if he's injured or just too young but he doesn't fly (yet).

We were afraid for him at first because of Amber and Jazz, pointer/retrievers that they are. In fact, last weekend, Elaine and Jason and Erin herded him (her? I don't know.) out of our yard and into the yard next door where Chocolate is. Within an hour he was back in our yard.

The dogs have been curious about Beluga but really haven't bothered or chased him, which we're really pleased about.

These white egrets are all over down here. Flocks of them follow the hay mower and the hay rake when they mow the field across the street - which they are doing as I write. So seeing them is not uncommon. They ride horses backs. One occasionally rides Chocolate but I haven't manged to get a good picture of him yet.

For now, we have a fourth "pet." Don't know how long he'll stay but we're enjoying him while he's here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dia de Gracias - giving thanks

Fins up! Erin and Elaine play in the tidal pool at Middles Beach.

Hope y'all had a great Thanksgiving. We did! We had a wonderful time with our friends Erin and Jason from Michigan. They came to visit us for the weekend. We picked them up a the airport here, took them to their room at Villa Tropical so they could change into shorts, and then we went to the beach. We then joined our local friends Marisol and her family, as well as friends 'Zan and Darryl for a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner - turkey, rice and beans, salad, mashed potatoes, and of course, great company. The weekend with Jason and Erin was spent getting in some snorkeling and swimming at various local beaches, enjoying some of the local cuisine and color, and hanging at Ola Lola's. The time was short and very special.

I moved pretty slowly all weekend. Thursday morning, while I was trimming the hibiscus ahead of Erin and Jason's visit, a ladder and I had a parting of the ways. I fell pretty hard and bruised my left side and ribs pretty badly. I tagged along on some of Elaine, Erin and Jason's adventures, but couldn't participate much. To make matters worse, I spiked a fever late Friday night. Saturday night I was pretty sick so Ola Lola's had its first-ever substitute bartender. Jason and stepped in and did a wonderful job helping Elaine run Ola Lola's. Elaine took over solo on Monday night. Thank you, guys, so much!

Having three days off is helping my ribs heal. Yesterday I did nothing but rest. The fever is gone. I won't be 100% by Friday - the ribs will still be a little sore - but I should be back behind the bar. And thinking about this past weekend, once again, I am reminded that we have the best friends in the world!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A auto adventure in Puerto Rico

Before we get to our story, we hope you had wonderful, safe Thanksgiving filled with joy and the love and comfort of family and friends. We had a GREAT time.

And now, our story -

One of the things we really dislike doing is going to Sam' s Club. Neither of us is particularly fond of Sam's or WalMart in the first place. But to drive 40 minutes or so, just for the privilege of shopping there - that just adds to the dislike.

That said, there are some things we use at Ola Lola's that we can only get consistently at Sam's. So, every couple of weeks we make the run to Mayaguez to go to Sam's. This past Tuesday we made the run.

The road between here in Mayaguez is a four lane, what in the States we would call a "limited access highway," not quite an expressway but close. It is also VERY hilly, up and down, up and down, for most of the 30 or so miles.

We turned out of Sam's with the Ola Lola-mobile jammed packed with stuff, trunk full, back seat overflowing. The first hill is about a mile from Sam's. When we started up the hill from the traffic light, the Lola-mobile wouldn't up-shift. All we had was first gear. After a several tense moments of driving driving on the shoulder, we pulled off to see if we could figure out what was going on and what we could do about it.

Transmission fluid? Checked that and it was fine. Jiggled wires and cables and "stuff." No good. We thought about who we could call for help. Marisol? Usually the first choice. Be we didn't have her number. Zan? We remembered her phone number but Zan and the two of us would barely fit in her car, let alone the stuff from Sam's. The young woman in the gas station couldn't help us find a tow truck but a very nice gentleman in the gas station found a card for a tow service. I copied the number and when back to the car. Oh. Did I mention the one cell phone we had with us was dead? The man offered to let us use his phone, but we (or rather, I) decided to push on. Off we went: Elaine, me, a ton of stuff from Sam's and a car that only ran in first gear.

There were some hairy moments but we made it home, 2-1/2 hours after leaving Sam's. Okay, we did stop at one car repair place in Aguadilla. But it was 5:00 pm the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. They looked it, said it could be this, or that, or something else. Bring it back tomorrow.

As we came past the airport coming home, we decided to rent a car. Friends were coming from the States Thanksgiving Day, still needed beer for Ola Lola's, and we had no idea what was wrong or how long it would take to fix it. Of the four car rental places at the airport, three were completely out of cars. We got the last car Avis had, the last rental car on this side of the island.

Our friend Jose, who is a mechanic, doesn't like to work on trans missions but he did a bunch of research for us but didn't have any definitive answers. On Wednesday, Elaine went to make the beer run in the rental car. The owner of the warehouse where we buy beer asked where our car was. Elaine told him and he recommended a place on the other side of Isabela.

Too late to do anything about it on Wednesday. First thing Friday we called the place Tito recommended. Yeah, they could take a look at it if we brought it right in . So off we went again - our friend Erin from Michigan with Elaine in the rental car and Jason and me in the "car with one speed." We made it with no mishaps. They said they'd look at it a call us later.

When they called, the car was fixed and it was "only" $175. Poco a poco (little by little), we're building a really nice car here. And we're a tw0-car family, at least for the weekend.

Monday, November 19, 2007


A friend of ours encountered an iguana for the first time the other day. At quick glance, she thought it was a dragon. And she's not the first to think so.

They are pretty strange looking, especially when you see one basking in the sun in the middle of the road or on the rocks or peering down at you from a tree.

Iguanas - specifically, green iguanas - aren't indigenous to Puerto Rico but as another blogger wrote, they are filling some ecological niche because they thrive here.

They most likely got to Puerto Rico as pets, cute little reptiles sold by pet shops. But like the "cute" little alligators, these guys grow up, some up to four or six feet long. A full-grown iguana is not cute and cuddly. So, like the alligators (and unfortunately, like so many dogs here on the island) the iguanas were dumped on the side of the road. Somehow enough of them found each other and now they are all over the island.

According to an article released by Airline Industry Information the invasive species became "a plague" at the airport in San Juan. Flights were delayed so iguanas could be cleared from the runways. In June, 2006, the airport considered drastic measures to eradicate the pests.

Elsewhere on the island, they're mostly just a strange sight. This guy is three or four feet long and sometimes hangs out in the tree outside our window. The good news is - they don't breathe fire.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Back in the ocean

I've written before that this is surf season and sometimes the ocean is just too rough to snorkel in.

Today was a snorkeler's dream day. Not only was the ocean flat (sorry, surfers) but the water was clear and visibility was great. It rains nearly every afternoon and run-off from the rain tends to cloud up the water. We took full advantage of a beautiful sunny day. We actually snorkeled to the outside of the reef at Shacks, something that doesn't happen often this time of year.

On the way out we saw a number of palometos dining in the shallows. Just outside Blue Hole we saw a bunch of black durgons, including a whole bunch of babies. I spotted this barracuda and called Elaine to come see it. By the time she got to where I was, the barracuda was gone but a school of either balao or ballyhoo sped by just below the surface. We're not sure which one - they are very similar and very fast. We caught up to the barracuda again which is when I got this shot. Two schools of blue-striped grunts swam by. About 20 feet below us a school of Southern sennet (related to barracuda) passed underneath. We saw several different parrotfish - princess, stoplight, yellowtail and others.

It was an amazing return the to ocean after too long a break. It would have been enough just to swim for a while. We both feel the need to get in the water on a frequent, regular basis. Not just near it, on the beach, but in it. If we don't, we get cranky. The ocean is a spa, therapy for the mine and body and soul and whatever ails you. The great fish sightings are a bonus.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lots goin' on

Can't believe it's been five days since I posted to the blog. We had a busy weekend at Ola Lola's and the surf's up so I've spent mornings chasing/photographing surfers. Then there's processing and editing the 200+ photos, making web pages for, and getting them posted.

Just this month we've added 13 new sets of photos to PRSP. We're using different software to create the pages. Now you can view the whole set as thumbnails and click on any individual photo to view it larger. Once you have the larger view of any photo, if you click on the arrow in the upper right corner, you can view all the images as a slide show. You couldn't do that before.

Also, the new pages allow you to order prints of the displayed image right from the page. Payment is through PayPal so it's easy, safe and (pretty) seamless. Of course, you can always just e-mail us, tell us what size of what photo you want, and send us a check. That works too.

We haven't posted any thing new to Flickr for a few days. There will be some new surf photos up there soon. Our Flickr site now has over 1,300 photos with more than 11.000 views. (Elaine looking at my photos doesn't count. Otherwise there'd be a LOT more views.)

Not much diving or snorkeling right now. The waves have been too rough (even when they're not good for surfing). We've had lots of rain so the visibility in the water hasn't been very good. So, for now, we're mostly hangin' out on the beaches, enjoying our little bit of paradise.

I'll try not to let this go so long between posts. I've gotten in the habit of writing the posts around a photo and if I don't have a new photo to show, I tend not post anything, even when there's lots to just write about. No excuses, just a recognition of my own sometimes bad habits.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Dia de los muertos

Our friend, artist and teacher Sarah Ginn created a community alter for "dia de los muertos" - the Day of the Dead. This is a Latino version of All Hallows Day celebrated primarily in Mexico. Many of the familiar Halloween themes - skulls, skeletons, ghosts - are part of dia de los muertos. But in the Latino holiday, they aren't scary. The dead are not to be feared but celebrated and honored.

Anyone with a loved one to celebrate could put a picture and a brief statement about that person on the alter. Elaine and I put pictures of her mother and grandfather and my mother and father on the alter.

Neither dia de los muertos nor Halloween are celebrated much here on the island. Wal-mart, in which the entire garden section is now Christmas (and has been since the end of September), had ONE rack - not aisle, one RACK - of Halloween stuff. Sarah had her students help make parts of the alter. She got grief from parents who didn't want their children participating in such stuff. A few children weren't allowed to visit the alter.

Special thanks to Suzann for the picture. The alter was open the same time as Lola's so we only a a very few minutes to get there and wouldn't you know it - the batteries in my camera died. Shame shame. But we celebrated their passing at the alter anyway. Thanks for the picture, Suzann. And thanks, Sarah, for the alter.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A night of anxiety, a morning of gratitude and rainbows

It began a week ago Thursday around 6:30 pm. It was a bright night under a brilliant full moon but a stormy night with a wild wind blowing.over a raging ocean. Clouds scudded across the moon and rain squalls punctuated the night as they had the day

Elaine: The afternoon rain finally died down so I left to ride Chocolate on the beach. As I turned for home, the full moon rose over the ocean, an amazing sight with the waves crashing on the beach, shimmering white as they reflected the moon. Powerful powerful mojo. I took the horse back home and called John. “You have to come to the beach!” I yelled. He came down with the dogs and got on the horse, which is where I wanted him to see this amazing beauty. We walked, rode down the calle and onto the beach.

John: Rnding on the beach under the full moon was magic, beautiful, amazing, spiritual, defying words to describe.

Chocolate was a little skittish when we first got to the beach but he settled down and we seemed okay. We rode off a gentle walk into the moonlight.

Elaine: I took the camera and started taking pictures as the dogs ran out and he walked the horse ahead of me. He was about 200 yards or so further down the beach

John: We stopped and turned to wait for Elaine (on foot) to catch up. Chocolate was alert but standing steady.

Then something spooked him. He shied. Then bucked, then reared. He threw me and bolted down the beach

Elaine: The horse took off – stirrups and reins flying.

We both ran after him but he quickly disappeared around the point ahead and we lost him. After fifty minutes or so of searching in blowing wind and rain and still no horse. By then, I was frantic and none too gracious about it. After an hour or so of running and yelling on the beach and the dune, I went to our friend Tito and his family. Tito told me to stay at his house and immediately saddled his horse, Flicka, and took out onto the beach to look for Chocolate. His family – wife, Jolanda, and daughter, Jolanda, and son, Francisco, gave me water and tissue to dry my tears and reassured me that Tito would find Chocolate and that he would be okay. Tito searched for almost two hours; John drove in the car and looked on the road and I returned home, calling Chocolate as I walked. Still no horse. After John and I were both home, I then left again on foot to search the fields near the dune that separates us from the ocean. Two hours – still no horse. Tito promised to resume his search at first light and said he was sure we would find him.

John: None of us slept very well last night and at first light we were out looking again.

Elaine: John and I met met Tito on the calle to the beach at about 6:30 am. He’d already been riding and looking for almost an hour. Still no horse and the rain was beginning to fall again. The wind was fierce (about 30 mph). No one had seen Chocolate. We couldn’t imagine where he might be except that perhaps the reins became entangled on a tree or fence and he was stuck there. After another 90 minutes on foot and Tito on horseback – each of us going in slightly different directions – I was told by a man working on a construction site 2 miles or so from our house that he had seen someone leading a horse down the beach. This was all in Spanish so I couldn’t get all the details straight. But I immediately hiked out to the road and began to run towards home.

I called John on the cell phone. He said, “I was just going to call you. There’s a double rainbow and one end looks like it’s right at our house.” I said, “Yes, I see it” and I told him what the man had told me. He dropped to his knees out on the sand in thanks and I continued to run. I was almost home when another man – one I had talked to the previous night in my broken Spanish – stopped me and said that he thought my horse was with Tito. I turned around and headed back towards Tito’s house. That’s when I met up with Tito on Flicka. He told me that Chocolate had run farther than any of us had believed he would and that he had stopped and been caught and tied up in the yard of a family about 2 miles east of us sometime during the night. Tito had gone there, gotten him, led him back to our house, unsaddled and bridled him, rinsed him off and made sure he was secure before leaving to come find me.

Tito had spent about 5 hours on horseback looking for – and then finding – Chocolate. Many others, including fishermen on the beach and neighbors we barely know, had also expressed concern and helped us look for and locate him. There are no words for the gratitude that John and I both feel for these people. There aren’t enough words of gratitude for the thanks we have for Tito and his family for what he did. This man gave me this horse as a gift; today he gave me that gift again when I thought it might be lost forever. And a rainbow was there to mark the occasion.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

and water

We were lucky as TS Noel went by. It was grey and gloomy and rainy for three days (!Unheard of! but there you are). But NOTHING like what the south side of PR, down around Ponce, and then the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and the other islands got. It was just dreary here, not dangerous. We didn't even(!) have a flood. About the beginning of the third day I said to Elaine, "This is starting to look like fall in Michigan." She said, "yeah, but it's 80 degrees and we're in shorts and t-shirts." Good point.

The ocean has been very churned up, not very good for snorkeling or diving. All the rain has visibility pretty bad and the waves - great for surfers - have been too rough.

The mackerel scad photo above was taken on our last dive at Crashboat nearly two weeks ago. It was amazing. We were 25 or 30 feet down and completely surrounded by thousands of mackerel scad. We were inside a living moving swirling ball of fish. They'd whiz by one way then whiz by the other way. It was like watching speeding commuter trains going by.

We saw the huge schools of mackerel scad earlier in the year, when they were fry and only about 2-1/2 or 3 inches long. Now they've grown up and they are 6 or more inches long.

I entered one of the photos from this dive in the Lonely Planet Photo Challenge on Flickr. The challenge was to photograph traffic. I called the picture "Rush hour." It got a lot of views and a couple of votes. I was happy about that.

All the most recent underwater photos from both SCUBA dives and snorkeling are on Flickr. Check 'em out. And feel free to leave comments.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Happy Halloween and All Hallows' Day. We hope you had an appropriately scary Halloween. If you have a "saint" you want to honor, today is the day.

We were lucky when Tropical Storm Noel passed by the island. We got grey skies and some rain from the storm but nothing like the Dominican Republic. Mudslides and other problems caused by more than 20 inches of rain claimed at least 30 lives and many more are missing. The WHOLE COUNTRY, 9.4 million people, lost electric power. Now the storm is heading for the Bahamas with 60 mph winds and heavy rains.

Here at home the waves are building, the surfers are coming back and the trade winds are blowing stronger and steadier. That means fun for kite surfers - and better opportunities for kite aerial photography (KAP).

On October 21st (before Noel went by), our friend Eric was out kite surfing. I managed to get some good photos of him just off the beach. I've photographed Eric before from the kite, from the shore and from underneath in the water. First, he's a really good kite surfer. Second, he's a lot of fun to photograph and to work with. As much as he can - given that we have no communication and both his kite and mine are subject to the whims of the wind - he tries to get in good positions to photograph.

The results of the latest shoot are up on Flickr. Watch for more good stuff in the months to come.